Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

and certain truth of that which is contained in them to know what God is, so far as is necessary to our obedience and love; and to know what it is in him which is so amiable, and to know that there is a life to come, and what it is; and to know what is God's will, and so what is duty; and what is the sin which we must repent of: these are more difficult. Generals are soon named, but it is a particular understanding which is necessary to practice. 2. And it is hard to see that certainty and attractive goodness in these things, as may draw the mind to the practical embracements of them, from the love of other things: an obscure, doubtful, wavering apprehension, is not strong enough to change the heart and life.

Sect. 4. These difficulties, in the mere natural way of revelation, will fill the learned world with controversies; and those controversies will breed and feed contentions, and eat out the heart of practical godliness, and make all religion seem an uncertain, or unnecessary thing.

This is undoubtedly proved, 1. In the reason of the thing; 2. And in all the world's experience. So numerous were the controversies among philosophers, so various their sects, so common their contentions, that the world despised them, and all religion for their sakes, and looked on most of them but as mountebanks that set up for gain, or to get disciples, or to show their wit: practical piety died in their hands.

Object. This is a consequent not to be avoided, because no way hath so resolved difficulties as to put an end to controversies and sects.

Answ. Certainly, clearness is more desirable than obscurity, and concord and unity than division, therefore it concerneth us to inquire how this mischief may be amended, which is it that I am now about.

Sect. 5. These difficulties also make it so long a work to learn God's will by the light of nature only, that the time of their youth, and often of their lives, is slipped away before men can come to know why they lived.

It is true, that it is their own fault that causeth all these inconveniences; but it is as true that their disease doth need a cure, for which it concerneth them to seek out. The life of man is held upon a constant uncertainty, and no man is sure to live another year; and therefore we have need of precepts so plain as may be easily and quickly learnt, that we may be always ready, if death shall call us to an account. I confess that what I have

transcribed from nature is very plain there, to one that already understandeth it; but whether the diseased blindness of the world do not need yet something plainer, let experience determine.

Sect. 6. That which would be sufficient for a sound understanding and will, is not sufficient for a darkened, diseased mind and heart, such as experience telleth us is found throughout the world.c

To true reason which is at liberty, and not enthralled by sensuality and error, the light of nature might have a sufficiency to lead men up to the love of God, and a life of holiness; but experience telleth us that the reason of the world is darkened, and captivated by sensuality, and that few men can well use their own faculties; and such eyes need spectacles, such cripples need crutches, yea, such diseases call for a physician. Prove once that the world is not diseased, and then we will confess that their natural food may serve the turn, without any other diet or physic.

Sect. 7. When I have by natural reason silenced all my doubts about the life to come, I yet find in myself an uncouth, unsatisfactory kind of apprehension of my future state, till I look to supernatural evidence, which I perceive is from a double 1. Because a soul in flesh would fain have such apprehension as participateth of sense. 2. And we are so conscious of our ignorance that we are apt still to suspect our own understandings, even when we have nothing to say against the conclusion.

cause.

What I have said in the first part of this book doth so fully satisfy my reason, as that I have nothing to say against it, which I cannot easily discern to be unsound; and yet for all that, when I think of another world, by the help of this natural light alone, I am rather amazed than satisfied, and am ready to think

• Parvulos nobis natura de dit igniculos quos celeriter in aliis moribus opinionibusque depravatis sic restinguimus, ut nusquam naturæ lumen appareat: Nunc autem simulatque editi in lucem et suscepti sumus, in omni continuo pravitate versamur, ut pene cum lacte nutricis errorem suxisse videamur: cum vero parentibus redditi, deinde magistris traditi sumus, tum ita variis imbuimur erroribus, ut vanitati veritas, et opinioni confirmatæ natura ipsa cedat.-Cic. 3. Tusc. Multis signis natura declarat quid velit: obsurdescimus tamen nescio quo modo, nec ea quæ ab ea moventur audimus.-Cic. Lal. Si tales nos natura genuisset, ut eam ipsam intueri, et perspicere, eâque optimâ duce cursum vitæ conficere possemus: haud esset sane quod quisquam rationem et doctrinam requireret cum natura sufficeret. Nunc vero, &c.— Cic. 3. Tusc. Quicquid infixum et ingenitum est, lenitur arte, non vincitur.-Sen.

all this seemeth true, and I have nothing of weight to say against it; but, alas! how poor and uncertain a thing is man's understanding. How many are deceived in things that seem as undeniable to them. How know I what one particular may be unseen by me which would change my judgment, and better inform me in all the rest? If I could but see the world which I believe, or at least but speak with one who had been there, or gave me sensible evidence of his veracity, it would much confirm me. Sense hath got so much mastery in the soul, that we have much ado to take any apprehension for sure and satisfactory, which hath not some great correspondency with sense. This is not well; but it is a disease which showeth the need of a physician, and of some other satisfying light.

Sect. 8. While we are thus stopped in our way by tediousness, difficulty, and a subjective uncertainty about the end and duty of man, the flesh is still active, and sin increaseth and gets advantage, and present things are still in their deceiving power; and so the soul groweth worse and worse.

Sect. 9. The soul being thus vitiated and perverted by sin, is so partial, slothful, negligent, unwilling, superficial, deceitful, and biassed in its studies, that if the evidences of life everlasting be full and clear, and satisfying to others, it will overlook them, or not perceive their certainty.d

Sect. 10. Though it be most evident, by common experience, that the nature of man is lamentably depraved, and that sin doth overspread the world; yet how it entered, and when, or which of our progenitors was the first transgressor and cause, no natural light doth fully or satisfactorily acquaint me.

Sect. 11. And though nature tell me that God cannot damn or hate a soul that truly loveth him, and is sanctified, yet doth it not show me a means that is likely to prevail considerably to sanctify sou's, and turn them from the love of present, transitory things, to the love of God and life eternal.

Though there be in nature the discovery of sufficient reasons and motives to do it, where reason is not in captivity; yet how unlikely they are to prevail with others, both reason and experience fully testify.e

O curvæ in terris animæ, et cœlestium inanes!
Quid juvat hoc, templis nostros immittere mores ?
Et bona Diis ex hac scelerata ducere pulpâ ?-Persius.
Non bove mactato cœlestia numina gaudent :

Sed quæ præstauda est, et sine teste fides.-Ovid. Ep. 19.
e Omne nefas, omnemque mali purgamine causam
Cred ebant nostri tollere posse senes, &c.

Sect. 12. And whereas God's special mercy and grace is necessary to so great a change and cure, and this grace is forfeited by sin, and every sin deserveth more punishment, and this sin and punishment must be so far forgiven before God can give us that grace which we have forfeited; nature doth not satisfactorily teach me how God is so far reconciled to man, or how the forgiveness of sin may be by us so far procured.

Sect. 13. And whereas I see at once in the world, both the abounding of sin, which deserveth damnation, and the abounding of mercy to those that are under such deserts; I am not satisfied, by the light of nature, how God is so far reconciled, and the ends of government and justice attained, as to deal with the world so contrary to its deserts.

Sect. 14. And while I am in this doubt of God's reconciliation, I am still ready to fear, lest present forbearance and mercy be but a reprieve, and will end at last in greater misery: however, I find it hard, if not impossible, to come to any certainty of actual pardon and salvation.

Sect. 15. And while I am thus uncertain of pardon and the love of God, it must needs make it an insuperable difficulty to me, to love God above myself and all things: for to love a God that I think will damn me, or most probably may do it, for aught I know, is a thing that man can hardly do.

Sect. 16. And therefore I cannot see how the guilty world can be sanctified, or brought to forsake the sin and vanities which they love, as long as God, whom they must turn to by love, doth seem so unlovely to them.g

Sect. 17. And every temptation from present pleasure, commodity, or honour, will be likely to prevail, while the love of God, and the happiness to come, are so dark and doubtful, to guilty, misgiving, ignorant souls.

Sect. 18. Nor can I see by nature how a sinner can live

Ah! nimium faciles, qui tristia crimina cædis
Fulmineâ tolli posse putatis aquâ.—Ovid. 2. Fast.

f Multa miser metui, quia feci multa proterve.— Idem.

In'malis sperare bonum, nisi innocens nemo solet.-Sen.

& Turpe est quicquam mali perpetrare; bene autem agere nullo periculo proposito, multorum est: id vero proprium boni viri est, etiam cum periculo suo honestatem in agentem sequi.-Plut. in Mario.

At mens sibi conscia facti

Præmetuens, adhibet stimulos, terretque flagellis ;

Nec videt interea qui terminus esse malorum

Possit, nec qui sit pœnarum denique finis.

Atque eadem metuit magis hæcne in morte gravescant.-Lucret. 3.

comfortably in the world, for want of clearer assurance of his future happiness.

For if he do but say, as poor Seneca, Cicero, and others such, 'It is most likely that there is another life for us, but we are not sure,' it will both abate their comfort in the fore-thoughts of it, and tempt them to venture upon present pleasure, for fear of losing all. And if they were ever so confident of the life to come, and had no assurance of their own part in it, as not knowing whether their sins be pardoned, still their comfort in it would be small. And the world can give them no more than is proportionable to so small and momentary a thing.

Sect. 19. Nor do I see in nature any full and suitablė support against the pain and fears of sufferings and death, while men doubt of that which should support them.

Sect. 20. I must therefore conclude that the light and law of nature, which was suitable to uncorrupted reason and will, and to an undepraved mind, is too insufficient to the corrupted, vitiated, guilty world, and that there is a necessity of some recovering, medicinal revelation.

Which forced the very heathens to fly to oracles, idols, sacrifices, and religious propitiations of the gods, there being scarcely any nation which had not some such thing, though they used them, not only ineffectually, but to the increase of their sin and strengthening their presumption, as too many poor ignorant Christians now do their masses and other such formalities and superstitions. But as Arnobius saith, (Adv. Gentes,' 1. 7,) Crescit enim multitudo peccantium; cum redemendi peccati spes datur: et facile itur ad culpas, ubi est venalis ignoscentium gratia. He that hopeth to purchase forgiveness with money, or sacrifices, or ways of cost, will strive rather to be rich than to be innocent.

[ocr errors]

CHAP. II.

Of the several Religions which are in the World.

HAVING finished my inquiries into the state and, book of náture, I found it my duty to inquire what other men thought in the world, and what were the reasons of their several beliefs, that if they knew more than I had discovered, by what means soever, I might become partaker of it.

Sect. 1. And, first, I find that all the world, except those

« VorigeDoorgaan »